The immediate two past leaders of this country have over the years not been the best of pals. Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings had used every opportunity granted him to lambast John Agyekum Kufuor, who took over power as President of the Republic form the former junta head.
As a result of this animosity, the two former leaders do not meet that often. The discovery of oil in commercial quantities appears to be working magic in uniting the two.
Information reaching The Chronicle newspaper from sources in government indicates that the former heads of state are among high profile dignitaries invited to witness the official pouring of Ghana’s first oil at the Jubilee Fields near Cape Three Points in the Western Region tomorrow.
The two former leaders would be airlifted from Accra to the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, the gigantic oil drilling machine which was manufactured in Singapore, and brought into the country early this year by the Jubilee partners.
The Chronicle gathered that the decision to invite the two former leaders was based on a directive from President Mills. A Deputy Minister of Information, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who confirmed the story in a telephone interview with The Chronicle said President Mills gave the directive because it was Mr. Rawlings who set up the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) in 1983 to explore for oil in the country, whilst Mr. Kufuor came in to do the actual discovery in 2007, and that the two cannot be neglected in such a national exercise.
The GNPC, under the then Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, did a lot of work at both the Tano and Keta Basins in the Western and Volta region respectively, in efforts to hit the ‘black gold’, but could not succeed.
However, with the suspected deposit of large volumes of gas at the Tano Fields, Tsatsu Tsikata’s administration procured a barge from Italy, and constructed an artificial pond at Effasu-Mangyea in the Jomoro district to house it. The corporation also erected transmission lines from Effasu to join the national grid at both Elubo and Esiama.
The idea was to use the natural gas from the Tano fields, which has a life span of fifteen years, to fire the barge to generate electricity to complement those generated from Akosombo and Aboadze for national development, but this did not come to fruition before the Rawlings government left office in 2001. When the Kufuor government took over, it also continued with the exploration, bringing in the Jubilee Partners-Tullow Oil, Kosmos Energy, Anadarko and the EO Group Ghana Limited – which Mills invites Rawlings & Kufuor to meet at Jubilee Fields succeeded in striking oil in commercial quantities in 2007.
The Kufuor government could not stay in office to oversee the extraction of the oil, after losing the 2008 elections. This has given way to President Mills to supervise the extraction of the oil, which begins tomorrow.
According to the programme, President mills and his two former colleagues – Kufuor and Rawlings – together with fifteen others, will be flown by helicopter to the rig to see the first pouring of the oil, after which they would be flown to Takoradi, where an elaborate programme would take place.
The last time Mr. Kufuor and Rawlings met at an official assignment was at the Anglican Church at Fante New Town in Kumasi on the invitation of Otumfuo Osei Tutu, as part of his ten years anniversary celebration.
The two leaders were invited to the dais for prayers, with the press interpreting it as meaning they had resolved their differences, but Mr. Rawlings later issued a strong press statement denying that he had resolved his differences with Kufuor, as earlier reported.